Creating the "Netflix" of Indie Movie Streaming

Carl Colpaert is a mainstay in the indie world. He founded Cineville, a production and distribution company based in Santa Monica, CA in 1990, and has since churned out a slew of indie films each year.

Actors like Kevin Spacey (“Swimming With Sharks”) and Salma Hayek (“Mi Vida Loca”) got their first breaks on Cineville productions.

Aside from completing two recent films, “Blue Weekend” (Warner Bros.) and “Female Fightclub” (Lionsgate), Mr. Colpaert has his heart set on expanding the indie film offerings available by creating an ambitious platform, a sort of “Netflix of Indie streaming.” This streaming service will primarily include original programming, as well as an extensive  international and obscure catalogue of films that aren’t readily available.

BTRtoday (BTR): You’ve been churning out indie films for several decades in a business that is notorious for being tough to sustain. What is the key to Cineville’s longevity?

Carl Colpaert (CP): The key to our longevity is simply overhead. We try to keep our overhead low, on both domestic and international levels, and build against the movie, so that way the movie has a budget for marketing and administration. I really feel that part of the importance of film financing when making a movie is to ensure that it’s properly marketed, rather than having marketing as a separate cost or entity.

BTR: You have stayed in the indie genre for your entire career. Was this purposeful, and if so, why?

CC: The studio system is obviously more lucrative, however you’re less in charge of the movie that you’re making. You’re relying on a committee of studio executives to make decisions and you’re often not in charge of the creative process. I feel we have complete independent voices at work with Cineville. We are able to attract screenplays and talent that are a little more off the beaten track. Of course, we are fine with bringing in the big studios once a movie is completed independently.  For example, we just delivered a film to Lionsgate and another to Warner Bros. It’s fair to say, we are essentially a part of the acquisitions game.

BTR: Acquisitions game?

CC: The sales and distribution of the film.

BTR: It’s easy for a burgeoning filmmaker here in the U.S. to perhaps not see beyond U.S. distribution, as it is vast and complicated. You have a keen understanding of the international indie film market, as you’ve made films that have done better in international territories. Tell me more about this.

CC: We did a film in London a while back–“Ms. Palfrey at The Claremont.” It was a number one hit in Australia and New Zealand. It also did well in England and eventually got picked up by the BBC. There are certain films that do better in certain territories. Fifty percent of your film financing will most likely come from foreign markets, so one might as well think in terms of satisfying those markets, and hopefully be successful in those markets as well. The U.S. is a 30 percent piece of the puzzle, not the whole.

BTR: What are the biggest challenges of making a film?

CP: Every movie is a miracle. It sounds good on paper, but having a great screenplay, having a director on board, finding a great cast, and finishing the film, and marketing, staying on budget…. Every step is a challenge. I try to think less about these, because if I think about the obstacles too much, I won’t do the film.

BTR: Did you say if you think about it too much, you won’t do it?

CP: [Laughs]. Yeah, If I think about it for more than two months, I’ll know it’s just too many things that could go wrong, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.

BTR: You’ve said if the screenplay isn’t good, a film is not worth doing. Since you specialize in obscure and indie films, how do you find these screenplays?

CC: Half of them come to us and half of them are developed in-house. Not all films are necessarily passion projects. Not every movie is a passion project, because it’s expensive and we have to pay the bills. Some films are more commercial and lack your Cineville trademark, but if the international department feel these movies might do well commercially, we say “ok, let’s do it.”

BTR: Which film would you say you have enjoyed making the most?

CC: It’s usually the next film that we’re doing! [Laughs]. It’s like having a baby; you think it’s going to be amazing.

BTR: And sometimes that baby turns out to be a monster…

CC: True!

BTR: How has filmmaking changed over the years?

CC: The cost of making movies has gone down immensely. But at the end of the day, a great screenplay is still as hard as ever to come by, and that still hasn’t changed.

(BTR):You’re creating the “Netflix of indie streaming,” which is why you happen to be in NYC right now. Tell me more about this ambitious project.

CC: Our streaming network will consist of original programming and a curation of international films, about 300 for now. There’s so much good cinema coming out of South Korea, Brazil, Scandinavia, Asia, and Latin America, etc. France makes 100 movies a year and we get to see maybe one or two on Netflix. These are films that aren’t available on traditional streaming services.

Our focus is on urban and ethnic millennials. Currently, we are developing three original series for this demographic, one which is called “Mi Vida Loca.” It’s a series that follows the trials and tribulations of Latinas in Echo Park, Los Angeles. Director Allison Anders, a talented director who has directed “Orange is the New Black,” and many more series, is on board to direct.